Total Depravity 3

What is meant by the phrase Total Depravity?

Mark Twain once wrote, “"The more I know people, the more I love my dog."

Total Depravity refers to the plight and condition of fallen and sinful people before God. It is also referred to as original sin. As one commentator has written:

Anyone who takes the time to consider human nature is quickly forced to conclude that understanding who we are as human beings is no easy task. On the one hand, we see creatures who are capable of excellence and possess great dignity. We build monuments, travel into outer space, create beautiful art and music, and sacrifice our own well-being to improve the lot of others. On the other hand, we see creatures who are capable of horrific acts. We start wars, abuse one another, and despoil the created order. Even the best among us is capable of the vilest sins, while the worst of us still evidences praiseworthy qualities such as love and loyalty. Certainly Blaise Pascal was right to refer to humanity as the ‘supreme paradox of all creation,’ for we are creatures of grandeur as well as misery.

Total Depravity may be viewed both negatively and positively. Negatively, the doctrine does not mean (1) man is as bad as he possibly could be; (2) that sinners do not have a consciousness about God; (3) that every sinner indulges in every kind of sin; or (4) that the sinner does not do good things in the opinion of other people.

Positively, the doctrine does mean that man is radically corrupted by sin in every part of his being including his intellect, emotions and will; (2) that there is nothing in sinful man that deserves praise and commendation before the righteous God.

The sixth chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith entitled Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment Thereof states:

 I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit.[1] This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.[2] II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, [3] and so became dead in sin, [4] and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.[5]

The corresponding texts to which the Westminster Confession refers are as follows:

[1] GENESIS 3:13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, what is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 2 CORINTHIANS 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

[2] ROMANS 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

[3] GENESIS 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. ECCELESIASTES 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. ROMANS 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

[4] GENSIS 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die. EPHESIANS 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

[5] TITUS 1:15 - Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. GENESIS 6:5 - And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. JEREMIAH 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ROMANS 3:10-18 - As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace they have not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.